Best guitar picks 2022: our expert choice of the best plectrums for acoustic, electric and bass

Man plays acoustic bass with a guitar pick
(Image credit: Future)

The humble guitar pick (also known as a 'plectrum') is an essential part of most guitarists' arsenal, yet its importance is often overlooked. Simply changing which plectrum you use can have a drastic change on the tone you produce, not to mention your playing style and the way your guitar feels to you. To help you one in on the right make and model for you, we've put some of the best guitar picks for electric, acoustic and bass guitar to the test. 

Further down this guide you'll also find handy buying advice on everything from shape, size and material, so you can make an informed decision on what the best guitar pick is for you. Our widgets will also take you to best prices online right now at our trusted retailers. 

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Best guitar picks: MusicRadar’s Choice

Ultimately there is no rule when choosing which plectrum is right for you, it's a personal preference. With that being said, we can give you general pointers. For acoustic guitar players, or if you find yourself strumming a lot, we recommend the classic Dunlop Nylon Standard plectrum (opens in new tab). This durable pick comes in many gauges (.38, .46, .60, .73, .88, 1.0mm), but we suggest starting with the .60 as it's not too thick, not too thin.

For more general use, then you can't go wrong with the Dunlop Tortex Standard plectrum (opens in new tab). These are the most popular plectrums in the world for a good reason. They offer a balanced tone and comfortable grip. 

We would recommend trying Gravity picks for the more advanced player looking for something a little different. These acrylic plectrums offer superb durability and a bright, articulate sound. They range in size from 1.5mm to 3.0mm, so you'll be sure to find one to fit your needs.

Best guitar picks: Product guide

Best guitar picks: Dunlop Tortex Standard Plectrum

1. Dunlop Tortex Standard Plectrum

The original remains one of the best

Specifications

Launch price: $6/£4.99 per pack of 12

Reasons to buy

+
Colour coded 
+
Lots of different gauges 

Reasons to avoid

-
Difficult to fault

First intended as a replacement for tortoiseshell (hence the tortoise design) Tortex picks were launched way back in 1981. Their durability, flexibility and bright attack have ensured they remain the industry standard today. They offer a balanced tone and comfortable grip. Dunlop’s colour-coding system makes it easy to find replacements for your preferred gauge, which range from .50mm (red) up to 1.14mm (purple).

Best guitar picks: Fender 551 Shape Classic Celluloid

2. Fender 551 Shape Classic Celluloid

Warmer tone and wider surface area

Specifications

Launch price: $5.99/£4.89 per pack of 12

Reasons to buy

+
Traditional tortoiseshell look 
+
Warm tone 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not ideal for strummers 

Fender makes a surprisingly wide range of picks in a host of sizes, shapes and thicknesses, but the majority make use of celluloid. This material provides a warmer tone than many other pick types. The 551 takes Fender’s traditional 451 shape and serves up a wider body and sharper tip, making it great for rapid-fire single-note licks.

Best guitar picks: Dunlop Nylon Jazz III Guitar Pick

3. Dunlop Nylon Jazz III Guitar Pick

The classic choice for jazz players

Specifications

Launch price: $4.65/£3.99 per pack of six

Reasons to buy

+
Perfect for fast players 
+
Very durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Small size not for everyone 

The clue is in the name with this long-standing classic: a small profile, quick-release moulded edge and sharp tip provide the agility to see the Jazz III through the speediest of runs with ultimate precision. Two versions are available: the warm-sounding Red Nylon or brighter, sharper response of the Black Stiffo.

Best guitar picks: D'Addario DuraGrip

4. D’Addario DuraGrip

Additional grip and enhanced click

Specifications

Launch price: $10/£7.90 per pack of 10

Reasons to buy

+
Added grip
+
Enhanced durability

Reasons to avoid

-
Bright tone not everyone's cup of tea

The DuraGrip design, from guitar string and accessory giant D’Addario, is made from Duralin, which promises to highlight the bright ‘click’ of the pick hitting the string, whether that’s playing chords on acoustic, laying down speedy single-note runs on electric or hitting a bass hard. Add in a stamped grip design, enhanced durability and choice of seven different gauges, and the DuraGrip is worth picking up. It’s available in Wide, Jazz, Sharp and Standard shapes.

Best guitar picks: Dava Control Picks

5. Dava Control Picks

Light and heavy gauges in one pick

Specifications

Launch price: $4.64/£5.49 per pack of five

Reasons to buy

+
Two picks in one 

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be a little awkward to use 

Guitar players usually have to make the choice between lighter-gauge picks for strumming and heavier gauges for single-note picking, but Dava allows guitarists to possess both in a single pick - depending on where you hold them across the Control Region, Control Picks can provide a soft or hard response. There’s a choice of three materials, too: Delrin, Nylon and Gels.

Best guitar picks: Gravity Picks

6. Gravity Picks

A great choice for shredders and anyone after a brighter tone

Specifications

Launch price: $5.99/£3.99 each

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely durable
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Some people might not like the added brightness

An acrylic construction affords Gravity Picks a different sound and feel to a lot of other plectrums on the market. Besides offering increased grip for your fingers, they seem to ‘glide’ across the strings - great for string skipping and sweeping - and deliver a brighter tone to boot. 1,000s of variations are available, and you can easily order customised versions, too. Sizes range from 1.5mm to 3.0mm.

Best guitar picks: Dunlop Nylon Standard Plectrum

7. Dunlop Nylon Standard Plectrum

The best light-gauge pick for acoustic players

Specifications

Launch price: $6.06/£4.99 per pack of 12

Reasons to buy

+
Perfect for acoustic players 
+
Comes in a variety of gauges 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not ideal for heavier players 

Players continue to swear by Dunlop’s Nylon Standards, which are known for their warm tone and durability. If you’re after a lighter-than-normal gauge, this is the best place to look: Nylons start at a seriously wobbly .38mm and .46mm, and go up to 1.0mm. They’re a handy tool to have in your arsenal for recording textures and delicate acoustic strumming.

Best guitar picks: Ernie Ball Prodigy Picks

8. Ernie Ball Prodigy Picks

The best pick for shredders

Specifications

Launch price: $9.99/£10.49 per pack of six

Reasons to buy

+
Enhanced grip
+
Designed for speed players 

Reasons to avoid

-
The shape can take a while to get used to 

Ernie Ball brands these ‘high performance’ picks, and it’s easy to see why: made out of Delrin for enhanced grippage, Prodigy Picks boast a machined bevelled edge and sharp point to aid speedy playing techniques by reducing drag and enhancing articulation and control. That makes them a sound choice for shred and metal players. They’re available in 1.5mm and 2.0mm gauges, in standard and mini formats.

Best guitar picks: Dunlop Tortex Flow

9. Dunlop Tortex Flow

A familiar tone with modified geometry for faster playing styles

Specifications

Launch price: $6.06/£6.69 per pack of 12

Reasons to buy

+
Great if you want to try a new shape 
+
Enhances speed 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for strumming 

This new take on an old favourite gives the beloved Tortex series a bevelled-edge makeover. Sharp edges and a wide angle provide the gliding movement that made Dunlop’s existing Flow picks a hit with shredders such as Andy James and John Petrucci, but here they’re paired with the traditional Tortex material for an altogether snappier response. They’re available in gauges from .50mm to 1.5mm.

Best guitar picks: Graph Tech TUSQ Guitar Picks

10. Graph Tech TUSQ Guitar Picks

Eke more tones out of your guitar with these versatile plectrums

Specifications

Launch price: $5.95/£5.99 per pack of six

Reasons to buy

+
Unique sound 
+
No Elephants were harmed in the making of these picks 

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound might not be for everyone 

You’ve probably heard of TUSQ - it’s the man-made ivory substitute that’s used in a lot of nuts and bridges. Graph Tech has also crafted picks out of the material, with a unique twist. There are three different ‘tones’ of TUSQ Pick (bright, warm and deep) in three different sizes (teardrop, standard and bi angle), each of which affects the sound that comes out of your guitar. The picks are also comfortable and hardwearing - and they make a satisfying sound when you drop ’em on a hard surface, too.

Best guitar picks: ChickenPicks Badazz III

(Image credit: ChickenPicks)

11. ChickenPicks Badazz III

The best plectrum for sheer versatility

Specifications

Launch price: $8.95/£6.83 per pack of two

Reasons to buy

+
Very durable 
+
Ideal for shredders 

Reasons to avoid

-
Large size can be difficult to get used to 

With a name like ChickenPicks, you'd expect this plectrum to be aimed squarely at country style hybrid playing right? Well, it'll handle that with ease, but this is also a great plectrum for jazz and general shredding. The thick, precision-edged Badazz III, crafted from thermosetting plastic, comes from the Tritone III series and is available in 2mm and 2.5mm thickness. This pick is comfortable to use, with a good grip, and is versatile enough to handle everything from rock and jazz to country and metal.

Best guitar picks: Buying advice

Group of 12 Planet Waves guitar picks on a white surface

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best guitar picks for you

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There are a few things to consider when exploring guitar pick choice, which we go into detail on below. But don't forget, picks are amongst the cheapest products you'll buy as a guitarist, but finding the right one is vital to playing feel and sound. So with that, we'd always recommend buying and experimenting with a variety of plectrum styles, gauges and materials to find the right fit for you.

What guitar pick shapes are there?

The shape of a guitar pick has a significant impact on how you play the guitar and should be considered carefully. Ultimately the shape affects the plectrum's surface area and, therefore, how easy it is to transition between the strings on your guitar or bass.

Strummers and acoustic guitar players often gravitate towards a larger pick size. This allows them to strum the strings without worrying about their fingers getting in the way. On the other hand, metal and jazz players often prefer a smaller pointed pick to maximise dexterity and allow them to skip between strings quickly.

Pick gauges explained

Once we have determined a shape, we need to decide on the gauge. The gauge simply refers to the thickness of the pick. The general consensus is that a thinner plectrum is better for rhythm playing or strumming. In contrast, a thicker plectrum is better suited to more detailed picking or even bass playing. 

What are guitar picks made of?

Finally, of course, there's the material to consider. Traditionally plectrums were made from natural materials and animal byproducts, including bone, tortoiseshell, steel, amber and wood. The first plastic guitar pick was made by D'Andrea way back in 1922, and this would go on to be the blueprint for the plectrums we use today.  

Guitar picks are now primarily made from synthetic materials, including, celluloid, nylon, acrylic, delrin and even glass. Obviously, the material you choose greatly impacts your grip and tone. 

Nylon and celluloid plectrums produce a warm, mellow tone perfect for acoustic guitars and 12-string guitars. Acrylic plectrums offer a brighter, more articulate sound, perfect for lead players. 

If you are looking for a general pick to do a little of everything, Tortex is a good option. These picks are usually very durable and offer an even sound. There is a reason these are by far the most popular plectrums around. 

It is important to remember that these are just guidelines, and there are no hard and fast rules to which is the best guitar pick for you. Experiment and try different things - you never know you may forgo the plectrum altogether and end up using a sixpence, like Brian May!  

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com (opens in new tab), in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).